Pope Benedict XVI will begin using the Twitter
micro-blogging website next week, in a bid to expand the Catholic
church's reach on the internet, the Vatican said Monday.
Benedict will start tweeting on the @pontifex_it account as of December 12, a statement said. He will answer questions "about faith and belief" that the public can already start asking him, the Vatican said.
"The pope's presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the (Catholic) Church must be present in the digital arena," the Vatican indicated.
The English version of the papal account had over 7,700 followers as of 12:30 pm (1130 GMT), with numbers growing by hundreds every minute. The pontiff was not following any other Twitter user, aside from the six other language versions of his account.
Papal tweets will come in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French - but not in Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church. Other languages may follow in the future, the Holy See said.
Initially, the tweets will be published only on Wednesdays, the day on which the pope holds his weekly audience. But "they could also become more frequent."
The decision to launch a papal account on Twitter "is ultimately an endorsement" of those church figures that have already embraced the internet through personal sites, blogs and micro-blogs, the Vatican said.
The Vatican has had an official YouTube channel since 2009, while Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the pope's minister of culture, is a keen Twitter user. His account, with entries ranging from Bible excerpts to quotes from John Lennon, has over 26,000 followers.
In January, Ravasi wrote on L'Espresso, a left-wing Italian weekly, an article headlined: "Even Jesus would use Twitter."
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